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[Page 282]

The Korelitzer Societies
in Israel and the World

 

[Pages 282-289]

The Korelitzer Society in Israel

by Michael Beigin

Translated from the Hebrew by Ann Belinsky

Our town of Korelitz lives now only in our hearts: in the hearts of a small group of townspeople now in Israel, in the United States, in South Africa and in every place where there is a person who ever lived and breathed in the same little town, warm, direct and honest. At each meeting of the ex–Korelitzers, this town rises and lives and from every meeting or mention of its name on a day of mourning or a day of joyfulness, it rises again from the mists, rises and becomes more and more clear. And when this book will appear and is published, the name of Korelitz will be memorialized – Korelitz of above; for the real, suffering, fighting Korelitz – that is lost and is no more. It may be that after some generations – with all the commemoration that is being done, –they will tell about this town – once upon a time there was Korelitz…

…Once upon a time came the day of the great War when the Germans took control of Poland and the methodical extermination began. In the same way as was done to all the cities and towns in Poland, at the beginning – the townspeople were humiliated and removed from all law and order and from that – several massacres took place. In fast continuation of the events, the townspeople were expelled in February 1942 to the Novogrudek Ghetto. In the big slaughter in Novogrudek on the 3rd of August 1942 almost all the Jews of Korelitz were annihilated.

Several dozens of the townspeople succeeded in escaping and spread out to different places: amongst the partisans and in hiding places. Some remained alive. Most of them headed towards Eretz Israel and began to rebuild their lives among the refugees from the great destruction who arrived in the country after the annihilation.

Once the storm of the war had subsided, refugees of the destruction, together with veterans in Israel who had come from Europe, began to work on memorializing their loved ones and remembering their towns and cities. The people of Korelitz in Israel, although few, succeeded on the initiative of Kalman Avrahami–Mordechovitz, to establish the “Korelitzer Society” in Israel, numbering 100 members.

The aim of the Korelitzer society was: not to forget our dear town and to remember and memorialize it in all possible ways.

The beginning was modest: the Korelitzers in Israel are scattered in all places in Israel, in agricultural settlements and in kibbutzim. A memorial date was set: 23rd– 24th of Av. On that day Korelitzers from all over Israel gather together for a reunion of friends in order to honor the memory of the martyrs with a traditional ceremony: public reciting of Kaddish, Yizkor and suitable Psalms.

 

Sitting from right: Yitzchak Lipshitz, Pessia Ephroimsky, Tova Londin–Rogovin, Haim Kaplan, Yosef Portnoy
Standing: Shoshana Lipshitz, Abraham Kuznietz, Sheindel Prevulotsky, Bracha Kaplan, Leyma Poltchuk

 

From right: Berl Horvitz, Mordechai Malkieli (Krulovzky), Yosef Portnoy, Aharon Mor (Maroshinsky), Tzvi Shuster

 

In continuation of the activity, contacts for commemoration were made with townspeople in other parts of the world and, as with other commemoration societies, we set up a memorial stone in the Holocaust Cellar on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem.

In the first years of the Society none of us dared to dream of our own Yizkor Book; all our initiative was appear in a book being prepared by Novogrudek townspeople; the discussion on this subject was long but our efforts were successful. We made sure to provide “A historical survey of our town” in the book that was published by the Association of Jews from Poland: “Landsmanschaften in Israel” (page 185).

While being involved in this activity and learning the ways, we began to think of publishing our own book: “The Book of Korelitz”, for during these meetings we noted that as well as the love steeping our hearts for our martyrs and departed dear ones, Korelitz has something to say to our youth and to the new generation which is building and creating in Israel.

With the collection of the material it became apparent how much light and warmth were buried in our little town: how many dear scholars grew up within it: poets, dreamers and fighters: audacious pioneers and those of great deeds. There are no words to express our admiration and tribute to those who invested so much in the ideas around the book: and those who took pains and wrote the pleasant things which enwrap within them the multi–variegated face of our town.

Let me detail the names of my friends, active today and who were the motivators for this undertaking:

Michael Beigin – Chairman; Chiena Caspi – Secretary; Yaacov Abramowich, Malka and Yaacov Poluzhsky, Malka Avni (Mordechovitz), Noah Gershenovsky, Abraham Kuznietz, Mordechai Malchieli and Leah Kornfeld.

I was chosen as Chairman of the Society in 1957. The first problems that kept us busy were about the memorialization of our town. We carried out discussions with the publishers of “The Encyclopedia of the Galuyot/Diaspora”, had contact with the Association of Jews from Poland and participated in their conferences.

In 1960 we had a festive meeting with visiting overseas guests: Markol Gershenovsky from South Africa and Yerechmiel Gershenovsky from the USA. The meeting took place in the home of Chiena and Yonatan Caspi. There was a sort of “housewarming” following their moving into their new home; Committee members came with their wives and other townspeople not on the committee were also invited. It was a festive meeting with sorrowful memories. We spoke about the town and what could be done to perpetuate its memory forever.

Many meetings took place with representatives of Yad Vashem. We were invited to participate in 2 central conventions of Yad VaShem in Jerusalem and in Tel Aviv. Sarah and Michael Beigin participated in Jerusalem and Chiena Caspi, Malka and Yaacov Poluzhsky in Tel Aviv.

At the committee meeting of 28th April 1960 it was decided to participate in the Novogrudek Yizkor book which was to be published. In September we received a contract regarding the book of societies which was going to appear under the auspices of the Association of Jews from Poland. The survey was prepared with the active help of Hassia Turtel (Oberzhansky).

In 1960 Yaacov Abramowich visited the USA and participated in a meeting of the Society dealing with publishing the book.

There was a meeting with Mr Guttel Simon from the USA who told us about the activities of the Society there. The possibility of financial support from the Korelitzer Society in America was discussed. Guttel Simon himself has remained our friend to this day in his strong desire to bind ties between the two societies and continues his visits to Israel and the connection between the two organizations.

In the middle of 1961, Zelda and her husband Yaacov visited us from South Africa; Rivka Broida –also from Africa, and Ethel Lipshitz (Aron) from South America. We received the first donations which, although modest, were used as a lever for action and encouragement. These contributions increased in 1962 in a meeting of the committee with guests from America: Shlomo Londin, Zlata Lubchansky, Broida, Aharon Bernshtein, Yudel and Sonia Pollack. Mordechai Slutsky, Guttel Simon, Mina Avramovitz and Atta Eizen. Also amongst the first donors were: Yossef Wolpin, Noach Gershenovsky, Malka Avni, Yaacov Abramowich, Chiena Caspi, Yaacov Poluzhsky, Rivka Shuster, Beigin, Vital Shkolnik and Kalman Osherovitz.

The warm response and the donations gave the first initiators the encouragement to think about organizing special Memorial Evenings for Korelitzers, because at first we were partners to Novogrudek Memorial Evenings. With time we felt that we needed to do something for ourselves and to be concerned for ourselves. The following members were added to the Committee: Yaacov Avramowich, Yehuda Shapira, Malka and Yaacov Poluzhsky, and Mordechai Meyerovitz. Our association entered into its orderly course with our memorial assembly – amongst our townspeople, with a different atmosphere and a different mood.

At the beginning of 1963 several impressive activities of the Association of Jews from Poland and Yad VaShem took place – in which we also participated. In January the Council of Organizations discussed preparations for marking 20 years since the Warsaw Ghetto uprising; the problem of compensation from Germany, publishing Yizkor books etc. In April there was an opening assembly of Holocaust and Heroism Day on the occasion of 20 years of the ghetto revolt. This assembly took place in the Hechal Hatarbut Auditorium in Tel Aviv with our participation.

In April 1963 we had a meeting in one of the coffee shops in Tel Aviv in honor of the guests from overseas, Polack Yudel and his wife Sonia, Yaacov Lipka and his wife from Africa and Mordechai Slutzky from Canada. We gave a report to the guests about our activities, the guests promised full help in all our activities. Ideas were raised for commemoration: a book about Korelitz, setting up Gimilat Chesed and planting trees in the “Martyrs Forest”. The guests from overseas agreed to be our representatives overseas for shared activities of our associations. Later in the year Yeshayahu Gershenovsky from the USA visited us.

In August 1965 the annual memorial service of our town was held. A regular religious ceremony was held and with broken hearts we remembered those who had died: Aharon Lipshitz, Tzvi Shkolnik, Rivka Shuster, Tzvi Arieli and Chimbalist.

In 1966, a festive meeting in honor of our guest Sonia Greenberg was held. Already then we were seriously talking about publishing a book on Korelitz. We were informed that in the account there was an amount of almost three thousand IL (Israeli lira).

August: the traditional memorial evening. The guest Alter Boyarsky and his wife were also present. Alter spoke about the need to install the consciousness of the past in our youth and to tell them about what Korelitz was and the life there before the destruction.

 

From right, sitting: Alter Boyarsky, Michael (his grandson), Rivka, Masha (their daughter)
Standing from right: Yehoshua, Hirshel, Moshe (his sons), Akiva Moses (his son–in–law)

 

Towards the end of 1966 the idea of the book began to take shape. At the meeting in November an action plan was prepared: First of all – to begin collecting material to give content to the book. In these cases of commemoration, once you decide to act you must do so quickly, because it is about the past, which distances itself from day to day; yesterday you could have spoken to another person who remembers such and such, and today – the person is gone. At this meeting it was decided to whom to turn, how to turn to them, what to write and about what to write. It was decided to turn to elderly people from Korelitz who live in Israel and receive material and photos of Korelitz. To turn to Pesach Kaplan who was involved in the life of the town and knew it closely. We decided to travel to Kibbutz Yagur where he was a member and talk to him and request him to write his memoirs. It was decided to turn to all townspeople to write about things close to their hearts in the town. Thus we would receive and build the complete mosaic of Korelitz. We turned to Hassia Turtel–Oberzhansky, to collect the historical material. The committee took upon itself to be active in commemorating the town in a book worthy of its name and of our town. Thus the committee began to discuss the financial problems involved in publishing a book like this and the help that we could expect from the Korelitzer Society in the United States. Several fundamental decisions made in these early discussions were: To turn in writing to all who could write about the town – that they would do so as soon as possible; to request from all townspeople in the Diaspora to donate money and to send in their impressions of the town. It was decided to turn to well–known people who could help in collecting information and material about our town. At the beginning of 1967 the work of the book committee continued at full speed. An editing committee was chosen: Chiena Caspi, Malka Poluzhsky, Yaacov Abramowich, Abraham Kuznietz, Noach Gershenovsky, Mordechai Malkieli, and Michael Beigin. From this group, secretaries were chosen: Malka Poluzhsky, Yaacov Avramowich and Mordechai Malkieli, who took upon themselves especial devotion to this undertaking of publishing the book and all the technical problems involved.

In the middle of 1967 at a meeting at the house of Yaacov Poluzhsky in Kfar Saba we already dealt with the memories connected to the book. Characters and educators from the town were mentioned; Shalom Cohen, Benyamin Ovsivitz, Tzvi Kivilevitz, Yitzhak Meir Klatzky, Haim Bussel, Moshe–Eli Shuster and prominent personalities who were born in Korelitz; the poet Yitzhak Katzenelson, David Einhorn, Prof. Shaul Aharon Adler. Also, memorial evenings were already influenced by the widespread activity around the book. Memorial assemblies became more varied. In anticipation of the memorial evening of the 30th August 1967, a detailed plan was prepared in the spirit of those evenings commonly accepted in the State: lighting of a 6 candle candelabra in remembrance of the six million murdered in Europe; a list of those missing in Israel was prepared. The agenda of the memorial evening was: Opening – by the Chairman Michael Beigin; In Memory of the Missing Ones; “Hospitality in Korelitz” written and read by Esther Shkolnik; Memories of Yaacov Abramowich, read by Michael Beigin; a poem by Fruma Gulkowitz in memory of Korelitz, read by Malka Poluzhsky; Chana Garabalsky read about “A Visit to the Town”; Yizkor and publicly recited Kaddish.

A party was organized at the home of Yaacov Abramowich in honor of the guests from London: Idel Kagan and his wife Barbara.

On the 15th January 1967 at a meeting in the house of Malka Avni (Mordechowitz) there was a report from Malka Avni about her visit to the United States; a report from Yaacov Abramowich; a report from Malka Poluzhsky about the book; and candidates for the conference at Yad Vashem were chosen.

In a meeting at the beginning of 1968 at a meeting held at the home of Sheindel and Avraham Kuznietz there was a discussion concerning the monument for the memory of Jews from Novogrudek which they were going to erect without specifically mentioning the name of Korelitz. We demanded that the name Korelitz be written next to Novogrudek, for the people of Korelitz were annihilated in the Novogrudek ghetto and one can't come to terms with the disappearance of our town in this case. A special group of delegates was chosen – Yaacov Abramowich and Noach Gershenovsky – to carry out negotiations with the Novogrudek activists.

 

From right: Malka Poluzhsky, Yaakov Poluzhsky, Yocheved Abramovich, Miriam (Minnie) Kessler, Yaakov Abramovich, Chiena Caspi, Sarah Beigin, Michael Beigin, Gershnovsky, Malka Avni
In front, from right: Noach Avni, Merkel Gershenovsky

 

The negotiations with the people of Novogrudek took a long time. The name of Korelitz appears on the Novogrudek monument.

At a gala meeting which took place in April 1968 at the home of Malka Avni, there was a welcome for our friends from America, Moshe (Morris) Kessler and his wife Miriam. Mr. Kessler passed on interesting details about the type of activities of the American Korelitzer Society. Each country and its own problems. The type of activity there is completely different. Mr. Kessler brought with him a donation for publishing the book, but he told us that in the account of the society there is a sum of about ten thousand dollars which is not being touched. Usually, the custom there is for the Society to pay for the funeral arrangements of a member who dies. Also a certain amount is given to the widow.

In January 1969 there was a festive meeting in honor of the guests Shaul Lubchanzsky and his wife from South Africa, Berl Horwitz and his wife, Chaim Berkovitz, Berl and Yossel Borovsky. The meeting took place in the house of Chiena Caspi. Those present gave their donations towards the book publication.

In May of the same year we decided to contact Mr. Michael Walzer–Fass to edit the book. Mr. Michael Walzer–Fass is known as a person who deals with editing and publishing these types of books with great success. He puts his whole heart and soul into commemorating the destroyed Jewish towns – and he does so solely for the sake of perpetuating the memory of these towns and villages.

In July there was a meeting with the committee at the house of the Poluzhsky family in Kfar Saba in the presence of the book editor Mr. Michael Walzer–Fass.

At a meeting in honor of the guest Mr Guttel Simon who was visiting Israel for the fourth time, Mr Michael Walzer–Fass gave details about the book, its form and content. He noted that the book would be in three languages: Hebrew, Yiddish and English.

At a committee meeting at the home of Yaffa and Abraham Kuznietz in Tel Aviv, our guest Hayyim Abramovitz, President of the Korelitzer Society in America was present. The guest gave details of the discussions of the society there. Among other matters, he said that in the Six Day war he suggested withdrawing all the money in the bank account of the society, a total of seventeen thousand dollars, and donating it to Israel to buy a cannon or some other weapon. The Society worked for commemorating the name of the town on a monument in America. Mr. Hayyim Abramovitz was pleased to meet the members of the Society here in Israel and passed on warm regards from our brothers in America.

At meetings that took place we discussed speeding up publication of the book. We are eager to see the fruits of our labor and the investment and the dreams of the townspeople. According to the details that we received from the editor, we expect that indeed there will be a book with much content which will glorify the name of our town forever.

 

From right: Yaakov Poluzhsky, Noach Gershenovsky, ….., Michael Beigin, Malka Avni, Yaakov Abramovich, Guttel Symon (Shimonovitz), Malka Poluzhsky, Avraham Kuznietz, Chiena Caspi

 


[Pages 290-291]

Good Friends Meet

by Yaakov Avramovitch

Translated from the Yiddish by Harvey Spitzer

Among the guests who used to come to visit Korelitz, I remember Idel Kagan. He was a young boy of 7 or 8, nicely dressed, handsome, clean and elegant. He would come to his uncle, Yashke Gurvitch, and family. His father's name was Ya(n)kel; his mother's, Devorkeh. She was Yashke's sister.

Yashke's house was opposite our store in the market place. Yashke also had a store not far from ours.

Idel would always visit me and we would spend time together. He would tell me that he liked Korelitz with its dear and warm-hearted people. That's why he came to Korelitz every year. I remember promising to take him for a ride in my car if he were a good boy. He was still a child and believed me. Once he asked me, “So when are we going for a ride?” I answered that my car was in the garage. I didn't have a car.

The years went by in this way until the dark war broke out. We met again in the forests where he was hiding with his cousin Berel. He always had courage and hope. We said goodbye to one another after the liberation. Each of us sought a little corner, a nest, in which to build his future. It wasn't easy to go back to our homeland, where nothing remained but ruins and graves. We had lost our closest and dearest relatives and friends.

Idel is no longer a boy. He's married to a fine woman, has lovely, fine children and leads a Jewish life. He has begun to visit Israel where he has two cousins: Berel Kagan and Layzer Senderovski and their families.

We again meet together. We take an interest in one another and inquire about each other separately. He visited me and my family. At get-togethers at my house, there were friends with whom we went through the worst times together.

As we're talking, I tell him about the Korelitz committee. We, the few survivors, would like to create some kind of memorial for our dearest and most beloved who were murdered. Many cities and towns have already done this.

He asked me about this and showed much interest in what we want to create. Idel didn't have to think too long and offered a donation for the Korelitz committee's work. He added that I should write to him and not be ashamed to ask for more and that he would gladly help us.

He visits Israel every year. He meets with his family and friends. He comes to the Yizkor meetings in memory of the martyrs of Novogrudek. He makes a contribution to help Jews from Novogrudek as well as from Korelitz and others who are in need.

 

From right to left: Y. Gutel Simon, Chaim Avramovitch, Albert Fetikof, Jack Polak, Morris Kestler, Fruma Gulkovitch-Berger, Hyman Itzkovitch

 

[Pages 292-295]

Society of Fellow Countrymen from Korelitz in America

by Morris Kessler and Gutel Simon

Translated from the Yiddish by Harvey Spitzer
A translation of this article may be found on page LIX H.S.

From right: Miriam Kessler, Chaim Itzkevitz, Morris Effner, Yaacov Pollack, Zussman, Yudel Pollack, Froy Pollack, Shlomo Mordochovitz, Pollack, Zussman, Meir Rotkof, Florence ----, Max Zussman 

CONSTITUTION COMMITTEE

Max Zussman Chairman
Mendel Tobias Secretary
Feivel Poluzky
Jake Pomerantz
Yosef Chessler
Mayer Itzkovitch
Max Florentz
Harry Barrish
Gutil Shimenovitch
Isaac Nashvisky

ENDOWNMENT FUND TRUSTEES

Mayer Itzkovitch and Mendel Tobias

OLD AGE TRUSTEES

Yosef Chessler and Feivel Poluzky

BENEVOLENT FUND TRUSTEES

Max Florentz, Feivel Poluzky

SOCIETY TRUSTEES

From savings account

Jake Pomerantz, Max Zussman

BENEVOLENT FUND CHECKING ACCOUNT

Jake Pomerantz, Chairman Hymie Kraus, Secretary

CONSTITUTION OF THE KORELITZ SOCIETY

Founded April 4, 1904 at the home of Mr. Binyamin Horwitz 77 Norfolk Street, New York Amended and Approved 1934

Ex-Presidents

Nissan Rabinovitch, of blessed memory
Tevel Horwitz, of blessed memory
Gedaliahu Becker
Mendel Tobias
Neta Levin
Feivel Poluzky
Yaakov Pomerantz
Gutil Shimenovitch
Louie Simenoff
Harry Barish

Officials

Yosef Chessler President
Harry Barrish Vice president
Mayer Itzkovitz Treasurer
Moshe Kopel Avramovitch Financial secretary
Mendel Tobias Recording secretary & hospitality
Mayer Rotkoff First trustee
Yosef Mendelson Second trustee
Louis Kohn Third trustee & sergeant-at-arms

 
Morris and Miriam Kessler
 
Y.Gutel Simon (Shimenovitch)

 

[Pages 296]

A memorial candle

by Aharon Marshinsky (Mor)

Translated from the Hebrew by Ann Belinsky

Who am I to erect a monument in your memory?

I did not stand close to you during your Holocaust, I did not see you when you rolled in your blood. In front of my eyes I still see how your sons and daughter, women and children, old men and women, newborn and infants, are being brought to the Field of Slaughter and are murdered in cold blood and terrible torture.

The history of the Jews is rich in Jewish blood, in all their wanderings and all over the world.

But Babylon and Assyria, Antiochus, Titus, Haman, Torquemada and Petlura, all of these together do not reach the ankles of the terrible German oppressor and his assistants - the people of “culture” of the 20th century who destroyed by all sorts of torture that the devil could not even invent, a third of the Jewish people.

In truth, in their corpses our martyrs were murdered, suffocated and burnt, but the hand of the oppressor could not reach or wound their souls.

The holy and pure souls hover above their graves in the European diaspora, wherever the tainted feet of the oppressor only managed to walk - and (their souls) participate with the Jewish People in the pure prayer read on Sabbaths and Festivals after the Shacharit prayers: Father of Mercy…….in His powerful compassion, may He recall with compassion the devout, the upright, and the perfect ones, the holy congregations who gave their lives for the Sanctification of the Name….. May our God remember them for good with the other righteous of the world. May He, before our eyes, exact retribution for the spilled blood of His servants.

Where is the revenge?

 

A group of Jews who survived at the grave of their brethren

 

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